Caring with Haunted Microbes
Exploring scientific accounts of marine microbes that update understandings of microbial existences in the controversially
named Anthropocene, this paper argues that attention to the temporalities of microbes allows for new modes of caring in the practice of science. Making sense of newly affirmed phenomena such as the collective suicide of marine algae or the circadian rhythms
of cyanobacteria (that don’t live a day) requires new ontologies that replace the priority of being and presence with inheritance and transgenerational communications: that is, a hauntology as introduced by Jacques Derrida. I argue that these biohauntings
make explicit the contribution of scientific observation to the observed phenomenon. Caring becomes enabled by an out-of-jointness of the microbial self. ‘Caring with’ articulates two relationships at once: between science and technology studies (STS) and
science, on one hand and between scientists and their ‘object’ of studies, on the other hand. While pushing thinking to the limit, ‘caring with’ displaces the opposition between ‘thinking with’ and ‘living with’, as abstract and embodied activity. Rethinking
‘the limit’ with care – the limit between life and death and between individual lives and that of populations, for example – requires an abyssal logic, a logic that allows for an opening in the structure of being. Renewed attention to microbial life not only
updates understandings of microbial existences, but also at the same time challenges some metaphysical assumption about how science is done, its relationship to philosophy, politics and ethics.